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2011 Archives

Human rights artists to explore global power of murals

September 27, 2011

Gayle Embrey with film crew
Gayle Embrey (right) with film crew.
DALLAS (SMU) — Documentary filmmaker-philanthropist Gayle Embrey will join internationally acclaimed mural artist and community activist Claudia Bernardi at SMU on Thursday, Sept. 29, to discuss their work supporting murals as evocative forms of communication and social change.

"Walls of Hope & Murals as Voice: Building Community Through Art," which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program. It will begin at 7 p.m. in Dallas Hall’s McCord Auditorium at SMU.

Embrey is currently producing Murals as Voice Project, a documentary that explores the histories, hopes and dreams communicated through murals on the walls of neighborhood communities around the world. A portion of the ongoing project will be shown at the event.

“The first time I went to Belfast, the murals painted by artists on both sides of "The Troubles" struck me to my core. The stories they told were graphic — sometimes menacing, sometimes celebratory, sometimes tragic,” Embrey says. “The voices conveyed were strong and clear. They had something to say and the power to make viewers listen.”

Not long after returning from Belfast, Embrey watched a documentary on Palestine and again noticed murals in the background. 

“I had seen murals around the United States and in Mexico but at this point I became curious about how all thesedifferent cultures throughout the world were using murals to give voice to their life experiences,” she says. Embrey’s strong interest in human rights, along with that of her sister, Lauren, led to the creation of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program in 2006 thanks to a generous donation from the Dallas natives.

In human rights work, Gayle Embrey says, “The vehicle of film, or of any art form, is important because it is a non-threatening way to increase public awareness, to educate people about what's happening in the world. It allowsthem at the same time, if done well, to form their own opinions and take their own right actions toward social change.”

Claudia Bernardi
Claudia Bernardi at work.
Bernardi’s Walls of Hope organization uses collaborative and community based art-making, education, diplomacy and community development to support survivors of state terror. She will share video of her work and that of others’ at Thursday’s event.

A visual artist and human rights investigator born in Argentina, Bernardi has witnessed “monstrous atrocities and unspeakable human tragedies” during the course of her life. She has spent more than two decades designing community projects for refugees and survivors of torture from Latin America. Most recently she has focused on developing art-in-community projects for countries at war or during postwar periods. She also has worked with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology team in exhuming mass graves in El Salvador, Guatemala and Ethiopia.

For more details on the Embrey Human Rights Program, visit or call 214-768-8347.

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